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Smoak About to get Pipped?

Mike Carp
I've been working a little closer to non-stop than usual the past few weeks, hence the lack of updates. August tends to be a dead baseball month anyway, though I've got a couple more general posts are brewing. However, after last night, I have to say something about Justin Smoak and Mike Carp.

Smoak, of course, took a ball off his face last night, and broke his nose. It's a tough break, literally, in a season that has been a series of unfortunate events for Smoak since April. Carp has already been getting regular playing time, but seems even more assured of it for the time being.

Here are some facts about Carp and Smoak:

  1. Neither Carp nor Smoak have established MLB careers yet, but Smoak has a little over triple the at-bats that Carp has at this point (807 to 238). Depending on how long Smoak is out, Carp could gain some noticeable ground by the end of the season.
  2. Smoak, for his brief career thus far, has been worth 0.1 WAR. Carp has been worth 1.3 WAR.
  3. ZiPS for the rest of the season projects a .318 wOBA for Smoak. It projects a .319 wOBA for Carp.
There are some strong statistical signs that Carp is getting lucky, and that is backed up watching him play. Last night provided a terrific example with his two-run single in the first inning. He hit a fairly routine grounder that found a hole. Those don't always find holes, but they have been fairly often for Mike since getting called up.

With that said, Carp doesn't have enough at-bats in the majors to discern how much of his hitting is luck. When I watched him in Tacoma this season, I was always impressed by his ability to hit the ball with some authority to all fields. It is certainly easier to find holes when the defense knows it has to cover the entire field.

At the end of the day, I am still a Smoak believer. A nagging wrist injury, a terrible offensive supporting cast, a father passing away, and now a broken nose, all in the span of four months, would take its toll on just about anyone. I have a hard time believing that Justin will continue to be this unlucky.

However, if I were Eric Wedge, I'd still have to reconsider the pecking order at first base. There's no questioning that Mike Carp is outperforming Justin Smoak at this point. Statistical forecasts say they are awfully close to the same moving forward too, at least through this season. It is time to open up a competition at first base, and let their performances sort things out.

It's unfair to open up a battle when one person can't compete, but really, Mike Carp needs the same opportunity that Smoak has already been given. At the rate Carp is going, he might just usurp the first baseman of the future.

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